Child Abuse Treatment | Western Cape Government

Child Abuse Treatment


The service aims to identify and treat children from birth to 14 years of age who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused and neglected. Children that are suspected of having been abused can be taken to a primary healthcare clinic where they will be diagnosed and counselled. The clinic sister or doctor will give the child a detailed physical examination and will also take a history. It is essential that the abused child be taken to a health facility as soon as possible. The longer the delay, the more likely the child will suffer severe emotional and psychological trauma. Remember that some children are abused over years and they might not need a physical examination with the first visit, or they might be emotionally and not sexually abused in which case they will be counselled and treated accordingly.

Child Sexual Abuse 

With child sexual abuse, special investigations must be carried out, such as specimens taken for forensic evidence. Also, the child may have been exposed to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS. Treatment for STIs is usually given when test results show that the child has an infection.

Parents or caregivers should be counselled about the potential risk of the child having been infected with HIV. The caregiver will be asked for his/her consent for an HIV test to be done on the child.

Child Abuse and AZT 

The anti-AIDS drug AZT (Zidovudine) will be offered to the child if they are brought to the health facility within 72 hours of being sexually abused. The drug has NO impact in preventing HIV transmission if the child arrives at the facility later than 72 hours after the abuse. Children covered by medical aid should get a three-day supply of AZT and a prescription for the remaining 25 days. Those not covered by medical aid should be given a one-week supply and a date to return for reassessment in one week. All children must be seen after one week for a follow-up assessment to get the results of all tests. The rest of the AZT should be given at this visit (that is a three-week supply). AZT is available at the 52 facilities where survivors of child abuse are treated in the province.

Children who are known to be HIV positive should not get AZT. They should be counselled and referred to an appropriate health facility for long-term management of their HIV status.

Teenage girls who have started menstruating and who have been raped should get a pregnancy test to exclude existing pregnancy prior to the rape. If they come to the health facility within 72 hours of being raped they will be counselled and offered emergency contraception.

Organisations Combating Child Abuse 

To try and combat the unacceptably high levels of child abuse in the Western Cape, health services have joined forces with police, community safety, social services and NGOs.

Social workers have an essential role to play in helping the child to heal after the abuse. The social worker will offer education, information and counselling. If the social worker believes that the child is at risk of further abuse when discharged from a health facility and is in need of urgent protection, they can issue a Form 4 detention order to remove the child to a place of safety.

Also, if a child's mental state requires more specialist/ psychiatric interventions, the child can be referred to the appropriate health facility.

The Duty to Report Child Abuse 

There are two laws which cover child physical/sexual abuse and neglect. Section 15 of the Child Care Amendment Act says that any person who has anything to do with caring for children - for example teachers, social workers, and doctors - and who suspects that a child has been abused, must report this to the provincial Department of Social Development. The Prevention of Family Violence Act No 133 of 1993 (Section 4) says that suspected child abuse must be reported to a police officer or a child welfare officer or social worker.

Useful Contacts 

Various organisations can help in child abuse cases:

  • Rapcan - child abuse prevention: tel 021 712 2330, fax 021 712 2365
  • Childline South Africa: 24-hour toll-free helpline - 0800 055 555
  • Childline Western Cape: tel 021 762 8198/021 461 1114
  • LifeLine/Childline Western Cape Lifeline Western Cape: tel 021 461 1113
  • Southern Africa: 24-hour crisis intervention service (Directory of Life Line centres and programmes)
  • Rape Crisis Cape Town: tel 021 447 1467

There are 52 healthcare facilities in the province that are dedicated to the management of children and adults who have been abused. If you cannot go to one of these facilities, go to your nearest healthcare facility.


If you suspect a child has been abused, you can take them directly to a primary healthcare clinic. Abused children can be referred to a clinic by the Child Protection Unit, a police officer or social workers.

Provided At: These facility categories:
Provided by:
Government Body: (Western Cape Government)

Free of charge.

The content on this page was last updated on 30 April 2020